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Archive for November, 2010

Study: Wi-Fi Makes Our Trees Sick

This post is part of our ReadWriteCloud channel, which is dedicated to covering virtualization and cloud computing. The channel is sponsored by Intel and VMware. Read their latest case study: Ausclad Responds to Energy Demands with Virtualization.

Dark Trail

 

Data centers hum day and night. More often than ever before we connect to these cloud environments through Wi-Fi networks.

According to PCWorld, now it looks like the radiation from Wi-Fi networks is making our trees sick.

According to the study, translated from Dutch using Google Translate, trees in urban areas of the Netherlands showed an increasing number of damage such as cracks, bumps, discoloration and various forms of tissue damage.

The research, by Wageningen University, was commissioned by officials from Alphen aan den Rijn, a city in the western region of the Netherlands. They asked for the research after discovering trees that did not appear healthy. Further, the trees could not be identified as suffering from a virus or bacterial infection.

According to PC World, further study showed that the disease has similarities affecting trees throughout the Western hemisphere.

Trees in urban areas appear most affected. The study found that 70% of all trees in urban areas show the symptoms, compared to 10% five years ago. Trees in dense forests do not appear to be impacted.

Wireless LAN networks and mobile phone networks may be only partly to blame. Ultrafine particle emissions from cars and trucks may also be responsible.

PCWorld:

“The study exposed 20 ash trees to various radiation sources for a period of three months. Trees placed closest to the Wi-Fi radio demonstrated a “lead-like shine” on their leaves that was caused by the dying of the upper and lower epidermis of the leaves. This would eventually result in the death of parts of the leaves. The study also found that Wi-Fi radiation could inhibit the growth of corn cobs.”

Researchers say that more studies need to be conducted before any clear conclusions can be made.

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A Service for Using Google Docs in Microsoft Office

This post is part of our ReadWriteCloud channel, which is dedicated to covering virtualization and cloud computing. The channel is sponsored by Intel and VMware. Read their latest case study: Ausclad Responds to Energy Demands with Virtualization.

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Google is unveiling its service to connect a Google account to Microsoft Office today.

Google Cloud Connect is intended for people who have not made the full move to Google Docs and are still using Microsoft Office.

It allows people to use the Office interface with the features that come with Google Docs web-based collaboration. The product is based on DocVerse, the company Google acquired earlier this year.

The service syncs Office documents to a Google account. People do not leave the Office environment. Once synced, documents receive a unique URL. From that point, the document is part of Google Docs with all the features that come with that service.

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The documents may be shared and edited by multiple people within Microsoft Office. A revision history is kept. It is accessible on a mobile device.

Google Cloud Connect is available for people using Office 2003, 2007 and 2010.

DocVerse was a key acquisition for Google. A lot of people are familiar with the Office interface. They have worked in the environment for years. Moving to Google Docs can be a hassle.

Google Cloud Connect is the kind of service that spans different UX environments but provides feature sets that are a part of the Web. That may be just the right for the long-time
user who wants the look and feel of Microsoft Office but the capabilities that come with Google Docs.

Google is accepting early testers into Google Cloud Connect. Sign up here to test the service, report bugs and provide feedback.

Android 2.2 “Froyo” Out Now for Samsung Galaxy Smartphones (UPDATE)

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A number of reports released this morning say that Samsung Galaxy A and S smartphones will finally be able to update to the newest version of Android – Android version 2.2, code-named “Froyo” – as of tonight at 8 PM. The phones can be updated by visiting SamsungMobile.com, it’s said, as per the Samsung Electronics press release the various Korean publications are citing.

However, official word from Samsung is the same as it ever was when it comes to the U.S. region: “we have not announced timing for Android 2.2 upgrades for any U.S. Galaxy S device” a company representative told us this morning.

(See update below regarding official download site).

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The reports we’ve seen so far are from Korean publications, for example: Yonhap News AgencyKorea IT Times and The Chosunilbo. All reports confirm the same few details:

  • Android 2.2. “Froyo” is being released tonight for Galaxy Smartphones
  • The update will be released Monday at 8 PM (no time zone is given)
  • The update will be available at http://www.samsungmobile.com

What’s interesting is that, in many cases, the reports are citing a press release or official announcement from Samsung Electronics, although browsing through the corporate website, there’s none to be found.

We’re also taunted with the forthcoming Froyo features, which each news article does seem to have copy and pasted from some sort of official release. Google Maps with Navigation, Flash Flayer 10.1, Home Screen/Menu Preview and Edit, Speech-to-Text functionality and social hubs, a feature which enables combined social networking and email contacts in one interface, are all listed as new Froyo features users can expect tonight.

UPDATE:

We can’t read Korean, and since this page uses images instead of actual text, we haven’t been able to “Google translate” it, but the site appears to be hosting the Froyo update for Galaxy S and A devices: http://kr.samsungmobile.com/notice/anycallpopup/froyo_up.jsp.

Can someone tell us what it says?

For what it’s worth, we clicked a button and downloaded a zip file which included a Froyo upgrade manual. Too bad that’s in Korean too. Another button led us to a setup.exe file – Froyo, it appears. Commenters on other sites are saying that’s what it is. Can any ReadWriteWeb readers confirm?

UPDATE 2:

Looks like it’s out for Vodafone now. Virgin too.

YouTube Mobile Use Exploding

YouTube Mobile Use Exploding: 75% Report Mobile is Primary Way of Watching YouTube

 

According to a study of over 16,000 mobile YouTube users conducted by Google, 75% of respondents said that mobile is their primary way of accessing YouTube. At first glance, that figure may come as no surprise – after all, how shocking is at that a survey of mobile users finds that they watch a lot of YouTube Mobile? However, it’s actually a rather telling number.

For some of us, watching YouTube on a mobile device is an additional way to watch video, not the primary way. But as it turns out, for a large majority of mobile video users, it’s completely the opposite.

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The survey found that 70% of the respondents reported visiting YouTube Mobile at least once per day and, while there, 58% spent more than 20 minutes per visit. 38% even when as far as to report that they feel like YouTube Mobile is replacing their desktop video usage entirely.

As noted by the Google Mobile Ads blog post reporting this data, these figures aren’t really a surprise. It referenced a recent Nielsen survey that found that YouTube Mobile is the number one mobile video viewing site in the U.S., with more than 7.1 million uniques.

Of course, Google is revealing this news to get at mobile advertisers – the post mentions that advertisers can now buy a “daily roadblock” which allows them to own all available ad impressions for 24 hours. Those ads would run on the Search, Browse and Home pages of the mobile website.

Obviously, that’s a great way to reach a wide audience of video viewers in the U.S., but advertisers should realize that these are only the viewers who head to the website m.youtube.com. As described on the Advertising page for this product, the roadblocks reach those who “engage with the mobile site on the homepage, browse and search pages from any mobile device including Android, iPhone, Blackberry, and feature phones.”

Browse and search pages, it says. Web pages, not apps.

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The blog post’s image depicts a recent campaign for Diet Coke on top smartphones including the iPhone, Blackberry and Android. However, on these devices, YouTube viewers have access to native applications pre-installed on their phones. Wouldn’t it be fair to assume that more streams come through those apps on the smartphones? How much of the smartphone audience is being targeted when you buy an ad on m.youtube.com? We’ve reached out to some mobile video experts to further research this and will collate our findings into a future post on ReadWriteMobile. Stay tuned.

Cellphones in the Classroom: Distraction or Tool?

 

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The final version of the National Education Technology Plan (NETP) was released last week, setting forth the Obama Administration’s plan for improving access to and integration of technologies for teaching and learning. Among the recommendations the Department of Education makes in the NETP is a call for support for “efforts to ensure that all students and educators have 24/7 access to the Internet via devices, including mobile devices, and that states, districts, and schools adopt technologies and policies to enable leveraging the technology that students already have.”

The push for “24/7 access to the Internet” falls under another the auspices of yet another endeavor, the National Broadband Plan. But the call for better access to Internet-ready devices, particularly utilizing tools the students already possess is an interesting one. Because the device that is ubiquitous for American students isn’t the desktop computer or the notebook or the netbook or the iPad. It’s the cellphone.

This series on Education Technology is underwritten by Dell.

 

Cellphones: Teens’ Primary Communication and Computing Device, Banned from Most Schools

More than 75% of those between the ages of 12-17 own cellphones. The cellphone is teens’ preferred mode of communication, and as we all know, they use the cellphone not for voice but for texting. Teens send and receive an average of 3,339 texts per month, about six texts for every hour they’re awake.

Statistics like that probably contribute to the notion that cellphones at school are a distraction. And as a result, many schools have policies – both formal and informal – that restrict cellphone use on campus. But as Pam McLeod, a K-8 Technology Director in Alton, New Hampshire, told me, cellphones are “officially banned per policy, but I suspect kids use them a lot. There are plenty of iPhones joined to our wireless LAN.”

Why We Should Allow Cellphones in the Classroom

Allowing cellphones in the classroom isn’t controversial simply because they pose a distraction. Some point to concerns about their use for cyberbullying. And others point out that students’ cellphones can pose challenges to CIPA, the Children’s Internet Protection Act.

Schools and libraries that receive E-rate funding from the federal government are required by CIPA to block or filter obscene material. As a result, most schools implement various levels of filtering, some much more stringent than what CIPA mandates. And when students use their own cellphones and data plans in lieu of wireless, they are able to bypass filters that schools have in place. Implementing a technical solution to this can take quite some time. McLeod says, for example, that the guest wireless is content filtered and isolated from the LAN. But in the meantime, many schools are working on acceptable use policies for cellphones.

But beyond crucial lessons in digital citizenship, cellphones can be a great (and low-cost) technology tool in the classroom. Cellphones are cameras and audio recorders, allowing students to work on multimedia projects. Cellphones are calculators. They are calendars – a far better way to record homework assignments than the print calendars students never carry around. Cellphones can be used to poll students in classrooms. In other words, cellphones can allow students to create and to share content, and they can provide an important bridge between the classroom and home.

Changing Attitudes, Changing Policies

Some also object to cellphones in the classroom as they may reveal the socioeconomic differences between students who have smartphones, those who have flipphones, and those who have none. The NETP suggests something akin to the Free Lunch program so that all students can have access to these and other mobile devices. In responding to other concerns about the expense, teacher Vicki Davis says that she asks students at the beginning of the year if they have access to unlimited texting so that she can send them homework reminders via SMS. For those that don’t, she helps them set up free alternatives.

Encouraging cellphones in the classroom is part of a larger push by some educators to embrace Web 2.0 tools for teaching and learning. But, as the National Education Technology Plan points out, it’s also a question of opening access to Internet-ready mobile devices. So, like many educators, McLeod says she’d like to see her district change its policy to match the support offered students who bring their own laptops or netbooks to school – sign a contract with the students, parents, and the school.

With the encouragement of the Department of Education and the recommendation of the National Education Technology Plan, not to mention budget issues that make other forms of one-to-one computing impossible, it may be that more schools re-evaluate their policies around student cellphone usage.

Emergency Broadcast System Alerts, Coming Soon to Your Cellphone

The Emergency Broadcast System was for decades the way in which we were notified of emergencies via the television and radio. (Or more likely, the way in which we were notified of a “test of the Emergency Broadcast System.”) But undoubtedly we are turning to other real-time technologies to inform us when there are national, state, and local crises.

With this new system, service providers will be able to send targeted government agency texts to alert mobile users in a specific area. While everyone will have to receive presidential alerts (something that’s never been issued in the almost 50 years of the program’s existence), people will be able to opt out of messages about imminent threats and Amber alerts.

“With the public increasingly relying on cell phones, it becomes mission critical for service providers to be able to share critical, time-sensitive information over these devices during times of crisis,” Alcatel-Lucent’s vice president Morgan Wright told MSNBC.

The program is being tested in California and Florida and should be ready in time to comply with the new FCC guidelines by April 2012.

The Urgent Communications Journal reported today that Alcatel-Lucent has made commercially available its broadcast message center that’s designed to help bring these alerts to people’s cellphones in order to comply with Federal Communication Commission’s Commercial Mobile Alert System.

Get ready for IPv6. You’ve got only 6 months…

Are you ready for IPv6? Did you know you’d better soon be ready? Is your ISP, or even country ready, and do they know why?

If you don’t even know what IPv6 is, you are not alone. There are billions of people who don’t know, and they shouldn’t, since this fundamental protocol – IPv6 being the latest version of  IP, invented in the 1970s by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn – is so deeply buried in the Internet services we use every day that when you are forced to see it, you know something is very, very wrong.

Guest author David Orban is the Chairman of Humanity+, an organization dedicated to promoting understanding, interest, and participation in fields of emerging innovation. He is Advisor to the Singularity University, founder of both WideTag, Inc and Startupbusiness, is a Scientific Advisory Board Member for the Lifeboat Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging scientific advancements while helping humanity survive existential risks.

Well, something is very, very wrong. We are quickly running out of IPv4 addresses, and what this means is that, simply put, the Internet will be clogged. It will not be possible to add new devices to it, no new computers, mobile phones, consumers, corporate users, nothing in addition of what is already connected.

The projections are for the last sizable chunks of numbers to be allocated to providers around May 2011, who then will hand them out, at ever diminishing rates to their customers.

If you are an individual, it will be of course the responsibility of your provider (the Comcasts, Verizons, if you are in the US, or BTs, for example, if you are in the U.K.), to make sure that your new cable modem, or next year’s iPhone model will keep working. And if you trust them, you can stop reading. But if you are a corporate user, or if you think that an additional voice being heard actually matters, then keep reading!

Vint Cerf, the father of the Internet, is now employed by Google with the title of Evangelist, to go around the planet and raise awareness about the numerous issues that surround the healthy development of his creation. He was in the U.K. yesterday, and somebody on Facebook commented “ah, that’s why he wasn’t in China at an other meeting he was expected to attend” to talk at the launch of 6UK.

Here is a video of Vint’s talk:

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